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A year later he commented, 'I am more than ever convinced of the calming effect of this system of nervous hierarchy of the inmates ...The cells and corridors are well lighted and ventilated and the sun shines in every cell during some portion of the day in summer, the importance and influence of which in the development and maintenance of a general healthful condition is beyond doubt.'78

The Prison of Isolation was never used to its full capacity, and in the years after the turn of the century the number of prisoners sent there declined. In 1903, the last year in which a schedule of prisoners was published in the annual report, only nine prisoners were confined at the end of the year. The small number was attributed by the inspector to the efficacy of the disciplinary regime. In 1908 the Prison of Isolation was closed, only to be reopened in 1911; the surgeon at Kingston enthusiastically heralded the reopening as marking 'a new era in prison management.'79

While the Prison of Isolation remained in sporadic use in subsequent years, in 1921, owing to a lack of accommodation for the general population, the cells were divided by wooden partitions and were referred to as the 'east cell block.' While the east cell block continued to be used during the 1920s and 1930s for the segregation of incorrigible prisoners, the concept of separate confinement was abandoned and the prisoners worked in association during the day.80

This historical excursus has shown that in Canada the Prison of Isolation was the only institution in which solitary confinement became the centre-piece of a regime of penitentiary discipline. But this is not to say that solitary confinement was otherwise never used. It is quite clear that a term in the dark isolation cells was included in the repertoire of punishment for violation of prison rules from the very first days of the Canadian penitentiary. The Penitentiary Act of 1834 authorized the solitary confinement of prisoners for misconduct in the penitentiary,81 and this sanction has remained part of the penalty for breach of prison rules. The 1870 rules drawn up pursuant to the 1868 Penitentiary Act authorized 'confinement in the penal or separate cells with such diet as the Surgeon shall pronounce sufficient, respect being had to the constitution of the convict and the length of the period during which he is to be confined. '82 The rules did not limit the period in which the prisoner could be so confined.83 This provision for punishment by confinement in the isolated cells was retained in both the 1889 and 1898 regulations.84

Although the annual reports of the inspector during the last half of the nineteenth century included summaries of punishments imposed in the penitentiaries, those summaries do not indicate the length of time prisoners spent in the punishment cells. However, some information on this can be gleaned from the punishment books wardens were required to keep. In the 1892 annual report, Inspector Moylan commented on the question of the length of the prisoners' incarceration in the punishment cells:

The Report and Punishment Book show that in some of the penitentiaries convicts have been kept in the dungeon one and two months and even for a longer period. I have discouraged this practice in my minutes. No doubt such punishment. or rather its equivalent, is as a rule deserved. But in view of the convicts' labour being lost to the penitentiary for so long a time, some mode of punishment other than the dungeon, after a short trial of that, should be adopted. If a week in the dungeon do [sic] not produce the desired effect, longer confinement there generally results in a greater degrees of callousness, stubbornness, and resistance to authority.85

In 1933, the penitentiary regulations were subjected to a major revision, the first since 1898; while confinement in an isolated cell remained a permissible punishment for violation of prison rules, the period of confinement was restricted to not more than three days.86 In the same year that the new penitentiary rules were introduced, the superintendent of penitentiaries confidently asserted that 'no convict is kept in solitary confinement in any penitentiary in Canada. Such confinement, either in the ordinary way or as a punishment, has been abolished for many years.'87

While this may be an accurate reflection of the fact that by the 1930s the Prison of Isolation had ceased to operate, it is not a proper statement of the continuity of the practice of confinement in isolated cells as punishment for prison offences. No doubt the superintendent perceived the administra tion of such punishment in the Canadian penitentiary as a qualitatively different form of discipline from that which was practised in the nineteenth century and which had drawn the condemnation of Charles Dickens and other critics of the solitary system. However, judging by the continuity of these practices into the 1970s and 1980s, the superintendent's disavowal of anything akin to nineteenth-century penitentiary discipline existing in 1933 should be viewed as official hyperbole rather than prison reality.

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